I remember a time when the name Schwinn used to be synonymous with bicycle quality. Sure, there were other brand named bicycles around. However, if it wasn't a Schwinn, your bike was somehow looked upon as being somewhat less than a Schwinn. It really didn't matter too much what the actual, mechanical merits that your bicycle possessed, it was the name.
Everyone knew, that if the Schwinn name was on it, it stood for, longevity, durability, and reliability. To everyone back in the 50's and 60's, Schwinn bicycles were the most popular bicycles for the youth. Captain Kangaroo used to always remind us kids about how Schwinn bikes were the best bikes made in America. Subsequently, practically every kid in America wanted a shiny new bicycle endorsed by their favorite TV star. At that time, Schwinn bikes were durable and reliable. All were made of hi-tensile steel, and most lasted for over a decade. There were so many Schwinn tricycles and bicycles being handed down to younger siblings across the nation. Everyone just had to know, that Schwinn made bicycles were just as good as the Captain had promised us, they all were. For almost two decades, this is what America believed.
Schwinn also experienced modest success with its most exclusive road bike called the paramount. Its frame was made of 531 steel and its tubes were completely lugged. It had a Campagnolo drive train and fine leather seats. The paramount appealed to the upper middle, upper class of cyclists, and of course the professional racer.
Schwinn also tried to appeal to the common everyday cyclist who might try to emulate the more elite and well-to-do cyclists, by providing road bikes called, the Varsity and the Continental. Many of these bikes sold throughout the 1960's. However, their sales began to plummet in the late 70's due to a heavy influx of European and Japanese 10 speed bikes of much lighter mass. Schwinn failed to upgrade its product line and continued to attempt to sell the heavy Hi-Tensile steel-frame of the Varsity and Continental.
Schwinn experienced records sales of youth oriented bicycles back in the 50' and 60's, with the introduction of the Sting Ray with its high-riser handlebars and its banana seat. It didn't take long for that style to take off at all. All the kids in my neighborhood, thought the Sting Ray was just a blast!
It would appear that as long as Schwinn kept youth-oriented, it did well. However, once it lost its focus upon the youth, it began to downwardly spiral. It always trailed the crest of the BMX wave back in the 1970's, by always producing bikes that were slightly less competitive than the rest. By the time Schwinn caught on to the proper type of BMX racing bike to produce, in the form of the Predator, back in 1982, the BMX craze had leveled. Schwinn did practically that same thing when it came to Mountain Bikes (MTN bikes). At first, they claimed that MTN bikes were just a fad. They refused to acknowledge the obvious popularity of the mountain bike (MTB) and missed out on miilions of dollars in sales revenue. Schwinn has had a history of producing inferior MTN bikes ever since the first one they've ever made, back in 1978 called the Klunker5.
They've been floundering ever since with one mediocre MTB, after another. The Spitfire, the King Sting, and the Sidewinder, have all been MTN bikes of mediocre qualilty and have not done much to uplift the name of Schwinn. Their hybrid and road bikes were once wracked with cheap componentry.
However, when it comes to hybrid and road bikes, Schwinn has definitely improved, here lately. The improvements may not have been monumental, but they indeed have not been incremental, either. The top of the line Schwinn road bike, would be the Fastback Comp. It is featured in a triple butted 6061 aluminum frame, a carbon fork, and a carbon wrapped seat post, with a 105 drivetrain. It also comes in five different sizes. At the top of the hybrid heap, we have the Sporterra Comp. It also comes with a triple butted aluminum frame, a carbon fork, an alivio rear derailleur and an altus for the front. That's pretty good for Schwinn of 2012.
Schwinn is obviously trying to make a comeback. Let's all pray that the new Schwinn has at least half the quality of the days of Captain Kangaroo. Perhaps Dorel Industries can restore the good name of Schwinn, for old times sake.